By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) – Spain took a massive step forward on Monday on its path to reviving the tourism sector, allowing vaccinated travelers from almost anywhere in the world and international cruise ships back into the country.
Only vaccinated people traveling from South Africa, India and Brazil are still not allowed into Spain over fears of variants. Anyone else who’s been fully vaccinated does not even need to present a negative COVID-19 test to enter the country.
On Monday, around 1,300 flights are set to land in Spain, up 33% from the same day last week.
Fernando Valdes, the state secretary for tourism, said he expects Spain to welcome around 15 million international tourists between July and September.
That figure doubles the number of arrivals in the summer of 2020, but represents just 40% of the 2019 arrivals. According to Valdes, pre-pandemic levels probably would not be recovered until 2023.
Besides limited vaccination in much of the world, the UK’s decision to demand quarantine for travelers returning from Spain remains a thorn in the side of Spain’s tourism industry.
The UK is traditionally Spain’s top tourism market. In 2019, around 18 million British tourists came to Spain.
The reboot of the cruise sector after more than one year will help Spain’s ailing tourism sector, but rules remain tight. The ships cannot exceed 75% capacity and COVID-19 testing is required.
In 2019, cruise ships added €2.8 billion ($3.4 billion) to Spain’s GDP.
Spain’s tourism-friendly moves coincide with the complete lifting of curfews across the country. After the Supreme Court ruled that curfews were not legally possible outside of a state of emergency, Valencia will become the last Spanish region to lift the measure on Monday night.
Despite the steady return to pre-pandemic life, COVID-19 cases in Spain continue to decline. On Friday, the last day the Health Ministry updated the figures, just under 5,000 people tested positive for the virus and 97 people died.
More than 40% of Spain’s adult population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.